A Post by A Student’s Parent

[anti-rclick]July 6, 2011

中文版: 學生家長的一篇文章

This post is written by my student Joy’s parent, Vivien. I deeply appreciate her effort in writing this and am very touched to read this.

Write-up: Sharing on Joy’s Piano Learning Journey

Joy started learning to play the piano about four years ago, just before she turned six. Like many other young children, she was full of enthusiasm when she was first introduced to music making on the piano. At the start, it wasn’t difficult to get her to practice the piano on a daily basis as the beginner’s piano pieces were pretty easy to master. But these beginner pieces certainly served as confidence boasters and helped to spark her interest in playing piano.

After about two years of learning to play the piano, Joy made some significant progress and was expected to play the more difficult pieces. The daily drill & practice started to overwhelm her and take a toll on her interest. She began to feel discouraged. It seemed that no matter how hard she worked, she couldn’t play the pieces well enough to live up to her teacher’s expectations. It didn’t help when her teacher always compared her performance and achievements with her younger brother, who always seemed to play better than her. Slowly, Joy started to lose interest in piano. She requested to drop piano completely. Well, did I agree? Certainly not! Not after I had bought her a piano, put her through two full years of piano instruction and sat through her daily piano practices. How could she give up so easily after all the investments, time and energy that I had put in? Above all, I felt that her musical talents would go to waste if I were to let her quit piano at that point. How could she give up so easily when faced with small setbacks like this? After analysing the situation, I concluded that her first piano teacher might not be experienced enough to sustain her interest in piano and the best way to improve her piano learning experience was to find her a more qualified, patient and experienced piano teacher. I managed to persuade her to continue her piano education on the condition that she could learn piano at her pace and I would not push her to sit for any piano exams if she didn’t want to.

I managed to find Joy a new piano teacher, who was strongly recommended by a friend as being a patient and loving, and hoped that the new teacher could help to rekindle Joy’s love for music and piano. In the beginning, this new piano teacher got along pretty well with Joy. Joy started to enjoy piano lessons and was beginning to like playing the piano once again. I was extremely happy although it meant that I had to travel a long distance to the teacher’s home and paid a much higher tuition fees. I wish I could tell you that all things went fine and Joy fell in love with piano and such. But it wasn’t so.

After a few lessons under the instruction of the new piano teacher, she suggested that Joy sit for piano exam. In fact, the teacher saw great potential in Joy and wanted to prepare her to sit for a grade exam that she was totally unready for. Joy was resistant to the idea but was eventually persuaded by her teacher to take the challenge. A lot of hard work pursued straight after that in preparation for the exam and Joy was stressed up by the demands. Before long, the constant need to practice and perfect the exam pieces slowly killed her joy of learning and she became apathetic. I guess apathy was her way of coping with stress. Joy’s teacher started to label her as slack and irresponsible and I could to sense the tension that was building up. I was hoping that things would get better over time, but it didn’t. It was wishful thinking on my side. In fact, the situation got even worse when Joy started being held in detention after her lessons. She was made to practice the music pieces on another piano when it was her brother’s turn to have lessons with the teacher. Joy felt extremely miserable and even cried on a few occasions. By then, I knew it was time to either get her a new piano teacher or respect her decision to quit piano.

In the end, I decided to find her another teacher.

It was another frantic search for a new teacher. But this round I knew that it might be my last time doing so as I had already made up my mind to let Joy quit piano if the new arrangement didn’t work out. This decision was clearly communicated to her and she willing agreed to give it a final go. I guess deep within her, she still loved playing the piano and was hoping to find a teacher who could understand the struggles, empathise with her weaknesses and help her to overcome the hurdles that she encountered along her piano learning journey.

This round, instead of relying on recommendations from friends, I surfed the internet in search of a new piano teacher. I managed to locate a few qualified teachers on the net and contacted them via emails. It didn’t take long for me to zero in on Ms Wong. I could sense her passion and sincerity in teaching through the email correspondences that we had. I could still remember that I honestly shared with her the challenges I faced in motivating and helping my kids to develop a love for playing piano, the negative attitude that they had towards learning and the problems they would pose to their potential piano teacher. In fact, I was prepared to be rejected with the excuse, “Sorry madam, but I might not be the right teacher for your child.” I’m sure there is no teacher who wants to have “difficult” students if she is given a choice, right? So I was pleasantly surprised when Ms Wong replied to say that she was willing to take my kids as her students. I couldn’t help wondering why she still took up the challenge after I had presented my kids as such a tough case. I really admired her guts!

The new arrangement certainly worked out well for us. Ms Wong’s studio was just a stone throw from our residence and the children (and me included) loved the idea that they didn’t have to spend long hours travelling to and from piano classes. It was heartening to see Joy warm up to Ms Wong pretty quickly after a few lessons. Being a very sensitive girl, Joy was able to see Ms Wong’s sincerity in trying to unlock the potential within her. I am sure she realised that Ms Wong wasn’t the kind of teacher who simply points out how a music piece could be played, but she also “walks” together with her students to master the piece. At times, she will break down a more challenging task into smaller tasks in order to help Joy overcome her “obstacles”. She makes music playing a lot simpler and more attainable for Joy by providing the scaffolds that she needs to help her make progress. In fact, I watch with delight at how Joy’s piano learning experience transforms from one that was filled with pain, struggles and dejection to one that is joyful, fulfilling and enjoyable. No, please don’t get me wrong and think that her learning path is now a bed of roses. Certainly not! There’re still days that Joy needed to be nudged to practice her piano and there’re also days when she wasn’t well prepared for lessons and was ticked off. But there’re definitely a lot more good days than bad ones.

In the past 14 months that Joy was under Ms Wong’s instruction, the greatest change that I observed is her learning attitude. It’s really encouraging to see how she will open up the piano to do her daily practices without dragging her feet. At times, she even practices the piano on her own accord! It’s even more heartening to see how she takes the effort to try to perfect the pieces (especially those she loves) and produces those lovely music with her little fingers. Wasn’t this the same little girl who was constantly procrastinating and arguing when she was asked to practice the piano? Wasn’t this the same little girl who was only too eager to complete her daily routine by hitting the notes and flexing her fingers, totally oblivious to the “noises” that she was making? Am I glad? Certainly! My heart leaps with joy whenever I think of the progress Joy is making. Well, I really wonder what exactly Ms Wong has done (behind my back :)) to help motivate and inspire my little girl.

My Lovely Student Joy

I’m so grateful to Ms Wong for providing the right platform for Joy to build up her confidence in piano playing and for assisting her to reach the stage of piano playing that she is at now. Indeed, thank you Ms Wong, from the bottom of my heart. For all the hard work, dedication and sacrifices that you have put in to make budding musicians out of my two kids and all the students under your instruction, I salute you. May God bless you abundantly as you give of yourself to help nurture a future generation of musicians.

Vivien Tok

Vivien, I also salute you in being such a supportive parent to my students, as we have gone through much thick and thin together for the kids in the past year. Thank you.

And for those parents who are still struggling with their kids’ piano learning, go ahead and take the initiative to change, to figure out what exactly the problem is or find another teacher (not necessarily me!)!

Teresa Wong

You can watch some of Joy’s videos here:
Joy Chan: Pachelbel’s Canon in D
Joy Chan: Stroll On
Joy Chan: “Wilder Reiter”

教學感想 II

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2 thoughts on “A Post by A Student’s Parent

  1. Sharon, I can help you more on the accompanying pieces if you want. Perhaps I should teach some classes on piano accompanying, which is in fact a very specific skill different from solo performance, and very useful for building pianists’ profession. After all, let’s face it, pianists need to earn their bread and very few can do so by solo performance!

    Teresa Wong

  2. I have no doubt that Ms Wong is a great teacher, and thanks Ms wong let me know what’s the role for being a acommpanist, and I am working hard on that “mission impossible”! hope can give you a suprise next week :P

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